Snitker gets 2-year extension; managed Braves to playoffs

CORRECTS DAY AND DATE - Atlanta Braves manager Brian Snitker speaks to reporters before Game 2 of the baseball team's National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday, Oct. 5, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal Constitution via AP)

ATLANTA (AP) — Brian Snitker has a two-year contract for only the second time in his 43 years with the Braves.

It’s little wonder that Snitker, who turns 63 on Wednesday, said Monday he never assumed he’d be asked to return as manager even after leading Atlanta to a surprise NL East division title and its first playoff berth since 2013.

“I’ve been around long enough to know you’re never guaranteed tomorrow in this business,” Snitker said after his two-year deal was announced by general manager Alex Anthopoulos. The deal includes a club option for 2021.

Snitker began his long run with the Braves as a minor league player in 1977 and spent 20 years as a minor league manager in addition to stints as Atlanta’s bullpen coach and third base coach. He said his only previous two-year contract came when Bobby Cox became general manager in 1985.

Now, as a leading candidate to be NL manager of the year, he again has more than a one-year contract.

“It does give you a sense of accomplishment, I guess,” Snitker said. “I feel really good about it. I feel good I have the opportunity to stay around longer and be a part of this.”

Pitching coach Chuck Hernandez will not return. All other members of Snitker’s coaching staff also received two-year deals.

Anthopoulos said it was his suggestion to replace Hernandez, who he said is “open-minded” about possibly returning in another capacity. Anthopoulos said Snitker had to be talked into replacing Hernandez.

“The human being he is, I think he would have had continuity there. … I had some concerns. The more we talked about it, he understood,” Anthopoulos said.

Snitker said “I was that guy” who was reassigned in 2013, moving from Atlanta’s third base coach to Triple-A Gwinnett’s manager.

Snitker said Hernandez is a “wonderful, really good pitching coach,”

“I get that in the process sometimes you want to go in a different direction,” he said.

Anthopoulos wouldn’t elaborate on his concerns with Hernandez. He said there is no timeframe on hiring a new pitching coach and said the search could include internal candidates.

Snitker was named interim manager in May 2016 after Fredi Gonzalez was fired. Snitker will be heading into his third full season as the club’s manager in 2019.

Anthopoulos said he was impressed with Snitker’s leadership from the dugout.

“When we did hit a bump in the road, lost four games in a row, he was steady,” Anthopoulos said. “Some guys panic.”

After a third straight 90-loss season in 2017, the Braves improved to 90-72 with some of baseball’s best young talent, including Ronald Acuna Jr., Ozzie Albies and Mike Foltynewicz. They lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in four games in the NL Division Series.

“I love everything about what’s going on here from the front office to the organization,” Snitker said. “The whole thing is really solid. It’s got that vibe of what I remember from years ago.”

The extension is sure to be met with approval in a young clubhouse. The players constantly praised Snitker and how he always had their back.

“He did a remarkable job,” star first baseman Freddie Freeman said. “It’s really hard to handle 25 to 35 personalities, and he’s one of the best at it.”

Anthopoulos said the team’s payroll will rise in 2019. Right fielder Nick Markakis is a free agent and adding bullpen help and a catcher to share time with Tyler Flowers could other priorities.

The team boasts a deep supply of respected pitching prospects, creating the possibility Anthopoulos could look for an offseason trade instead of free agency to boost the lineup.

Snitker became a manager for the first time in the Class A South Atlantic League at 26, and his star seemed on the rise when he joined the big league club as a bullpen coach in 1985.

It didn’t last. He returned to the minors the following season, settling into a largely overlooked career as an organizational jack-of-all-trades. He managed at every level of the minors, from the rookie leagues to Triple-A, and got two more stints as a coach for the big league team.

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